Monday, October 23, 2017

How can we "retrofit" the suburbs?

While Stevenage England has demonstrated that even the best of separated networks is no guarantee for "build it and they will come", multi-modal safety should still be top priority in any civilized society. The chance to enrich one's community, care for the environment, and live sustainably must be put in the hands of the people, regardless how they choose to travel. That is a moral imperative.

Again, relative to other States, DelDOT has made enormous strides in this area, in spite of a challenging budget. They know that, in spite of the numbers, many people do in fact bike for many different reasons -- not just transportation. They realize we have an indigent population whose only transportation is the bicycle. They know that many fitness and recreational clubs exist, and they sponsor rides whose only arena is the public roads. They understand that folks are out there now trying to consolidate trips and reduce or eliminate auto usage in favor of more Earth-friendly means of transport. Then there are the economic benefits that bicycling brings to the State, and its role in building local and regional economies. Governor Markell famously embraced bicycling, knowing full well that our future depends on making Delaware more attractive for education and commerce. Finally, there are the grim statistics that place Delaware as a consistent top 10 in bike/ped fatalities, and the dire need to improve safety.

Above: As a case study, we took this Google Earth snip of the 4 Seasons (north of Glasgow) region of New Castle County, and traced out a crude bicycle-friendly network. The area enjoys excellent proximity to retail, employment, schools, dining, trails, parkland, and has several low stress connections to these features. If we really wanted a test case for "retrofitting the suburbs" in Delaware, there may not be a better place to try it out at reasonable cost.

Regardless of what has been achieved in terms of road paint, signage, and a few pathways projects, DelDOT can't do it all. As mentioned previously, making bicycling attractive takes a holistic approach, all of which can be found in the 6 "Es" of advocacy. This includes getting New Castle County on board, and having a pragmatic and effective State advocacy organization that is willing to work within the built environment. Sadly, both are lacking at this time.

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